“The strange ones began to arrive in West Virginia. They trooped down from the hills, along the muddy back roads, up from the winding ‘hollers,’ like an army of leprechauns seeking impoverished shoemakers. It was open season of the human race and so the ancient procession of the damned marched once more.” — John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies
At 5 PM on December 15, 1967 the traffic signal on the West Virginia side of the Silver Bridge turned red. Thirty-seven vehicles were stopped on the bridge in rush hour traffic when the bridge began to shudder. In less than a minute, all three spans of the bridge collapsed into the icy Ohio River, carrying with them all the cars, trucks, and people. Forty-six souls were lost and many more were injured.
The Silver Bridge was an eyebar-chain suspension bridge built in 1928 and named for the color of its aluminum paint. The bridge connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Gallipolis, Ohio, over the Ohio River. The collapse of the Silver Bridge forever changed the tiny town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. However, in truth, the town had been undergoing a strange transformation for the 13 months leading up to the tragedy.
On November 12, 1966, two young Point Pleasant couples, Roger and Linda Scarberry and Steve and Mary Mallette were taking a late night cruise in an area just north of the town known as the TNT area. As they passed an old explosives manufacturing facility they noticed two red lights in the shadows. They stopped the car, and upon closer inspection, discovered that the lights were the glowing red eyes of a large, winged, humanoid figure standing approximately six and a half feet tall. Terrified, they drove toward Route 62, leading into town, where the creature chased them at speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour.
The teens raced into town and reported the sighting to the local police. After that sightings of the winged humanoid continued and were reported by local papers who dubbed the creature “Mothman” after a character in the Batman comics. Mothman was accompanied by a plethora of interesting characters; arriving as what author John Keel deemed “an ancient procession of the damned.”
For the next 13 months, as if a portal to some unknown dimension had been opened, a series of other-worldly events plagued the sleepy West Virginia town. Strange lights appeared nightly over the river, streets, and farms of the town and people came from miles to witness them.
A Mineralwells sewing machine salesman was stopped on his way home by a large object resembling a kerosene lamp that landed in the road in front of him. A mysterious grinning man emerged from the craft, approached the salesman’s car and communicated to him telepathically that he was a seeker by the name of Indrid Cold.
Sinister men clad in plaid shirts materialized in bedrooms in the middle of the night and vanished as quickly as they appeared. Television sets frequently malfunctioned and phantom phone calls were a regular occurrence.
Strange men in black suits interrogated and intimidated witnesses to these events. An odd detail about these men was that their black attire and black vehicles were out of style, often by decades, and yet appeared brand new. The Men in Black also wore shoes with strangely thick soles and exhibited extremely odd mannerisms, such as fascination with simple objects like ballpoint pens.
Whatever portal to the unknown was opened with the arrival of the Mothman was seemingly slammed shut with the collapse of the Silver Bridge. Visitations from the strange ones abruptly ended after that cold December night, a well-deserved respite for the grieving town residents. John Keel investigated the strange events as they occurred and wrote about his experiences in his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies. In 2002 Keel’s book was adapted into a movie starring Richard Gere and Laura Linney, although the film takes many liberties with the truth.
In the years after the bridge collapse the town of Point Pleasant struggled. The new bridge, which was placed further down the river, no longer fed traffic into the downtown. Economic hardship followed and the town slowed almost to a standstill.
The popularity of the Mothman movie brought with it a new opportunity for the town and people began to travel from around the world to visit the Mothman Museum and attend the annual Mothman Festival. In 2003 a 12-foot-tall stainless steel effigy of Mothman was placed in the center of town in honor of the winged visitor.
Although Mothman sightings have not occurred for many years, visitors of the town often report strange experiences, synchronicities, and occasional glimpses of unusual apparitions, particularly those visitors who stay at the Lowe, a historic hotel located in downtown Point Pleasant, which has a unique and interesting history of its own.
A visit to Point Pleasant is almost like moving back 50 years in time, so if you ever have the opportunity I definitely recommend paying a visit to this tiny West Virginia town; you’ll be glad you did.